Egg plant loses bid to suppress animal activist's evidence
ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. - Two officials with one of the state's largest egg
producers on Tuesday lost an effort to suppress evidence collected by
an animal rights activist who worked undercover last year at their
Mount Joy farm.
A district judge ruled that there was no evidence that John Brothers
acted as an agent of the animal welfare officer who based dozens of
animal cruelty charges against the chief executive and manager of
Esbenshade Farms on Brothers' videotape from the egg plant.
The defendants' lawyers had argued the surreptitious taping may have
violated constitutional search-and-seizure rules, but District Judge
Jayne F. Duncan ruled against them and said she would schedule the
case for trial.
"The issue today was whether or not the investigation was in any way
conducted by the state so that the constitution would be implicated,
and it wasn't," said Christopher P. Lyden, a private attorney
prosecuting the case on behalf of humane society police officer Johnna
Brothers testified that he lived at a motel while working at the egg
plant about 20 miles southeast of Harrisburg in late November and
early December. Animal welfare officials said he found chickens
impaled by their cages' wires, unable to reach food or water and
penned with decomposing bodies of dead hens. They said birds also were
kept in cages so small they could not spread their wings and exhibited
untreated illnesses or injuries.
Seeton filed summary charges in January against chief executive H.
Glenn Esbenshade and farm manager Jay Musser after Brothers and
another member of the Washington-based group Compassion Over Killing
provided her with the video.
Michael T. Winters, attorney for the defendants, said the animal
cruelty statute cannot be enforced against "a normal agricultural
operation," which his clients insist they engage in.
"It's what's the legal standard versus what's somebody else's
standards," Winters said. "Other people and other special interest
groups may have other standards they believe should be applied, but
we're dealing with the legal standard here."
Brothers said he was employed by Compassion Over Killing before and
after his time at the farm, but not during the brief period he worked
there. Compassion Over Killing focuses on the abuse of animals raised
The animal cruelty charges carry potential fines of $50 to $750 and 90
days in jail per violation, Seeton said.
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Compassion Over Killing: http://www.cok.net/feat/paefi.php